When we think of the words of our ancestors – Together Today for our Children Tomorrow – we think of those who came before us and their vision. It is our responsibility to uphold these words and carry this vision. Our elders tell us, “You do things in a good way and if you take care of the land it will take care of you.”
We are those children but we are deeply troubled by recent events. We see a blatant contempt for the democratic process in Yukon government’s decision to abandon the Peel planning commission’s report reached by consensus with all First Nations and stakeholders involved that called for 80 per cent protection.
Instead of respecting an agreed upon process, the Yukon government rejected the Final Recommended Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan, and imposed a new plan opening 71 per cent of the Peel Watershed to development.
This illustrates the Yukon government’s dishonour and it undermines the Umbrella Final Agreement they negotiated in apparent good faith with the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin. We also see Yukon government’s disregard for our brothers and sisters, the Tetlit Gwitch’in in the Northwest Territories.
If this is an example of how democracy works, then it is little wonder that youth are disengaged and voter turnout is at an all-time low. And how can the Yukon government ignore constitutionally entrenched agreements like the UFA that supersede any election?
We see disrespect for our culture and for the voices of our elders. We’ve had enough of governments who aggressively push unilateral agendas focused on resource extraction with little thought of their ethical and legal responsibilities to First Nation people. A healthy Yukon economy should be built upon mutual respect and certainty – something that this government, time and time again, has failed to do.
Premier Darrell Pasloski’s approach has resulted in a series of court cases, with more on the horizon. This doesn’t only impact First Nations people, but all Yukoners. It is evident that this current government still believes in the 19th century “Wild West Gold Rush,” like that portrayed in the Discovery Channel’s Klondike show. The accuracy of this program and Yukon government’s claim that the “Yukon is open for business” is as real as fool’s gold and has left us mired in the muck, mining malcontent and panning for peace.
The time is now. We could choose a future of mutual respect that celebrates the diverse values we have for the land – OR – we could accept this government’s agenda of instability and confrontation. We are not immune to working with industry – we understand that First Nations have a major role to play in development. But it must be done with our consent in a manner that respects our inclusion and values taught by our elders about caring for the land.
Our voices are strong, our hearts are full and our minds are clear. We stand together today for our children tomorrow.
We stand Idle No More – will you?
Eileen Peter, Samantha Dawson, Victor Kisoun, William Jakesta, Marissa Mills, Josh Barichello, Shaun Ladue, Brittany Tuffs, Gillian Staveley, Josie O’Brien, Sholeen Esquiro, Kris Statnyk, Wesley Jakesta, Fred Ross, Darrin Dawson, Jody Inkster, Melaina Sheldon, Stefanie Sydney, Angela Code and Rena Squirell.